Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged women's history

Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight

In 1860, it was legal for a man to send his wife to an insane asylum against her will, based on his word and that of one or two witnesses. The asylum could deny patients the right to legal representation as well as visits and uncensored correspondence with friends. And a man could sell his property and take his children across the country without consulting his wife, because the property and children were considered his, even if her inheritance and income had contributed to that property. This was the world in which Elizabeth Parsons Packard lived.

The Girls of Murder City: Fame, Lust and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago

During the 1920s, a rash of killings rocked Chicago. The murderers were young women who drank, and most killed their lovers. Most were white and all-male juries that refused to believe women were capable of cold-blooded murder released most of them. During this time, the crimes were reported in the newspapers by “sob sisters,” female reporters who were able to interview female inmates and victim’s family members.

The Girls’ History and Culture Reader: The Twentieth Century

The Girls’ History and Culture Reader: The Twentieth Century is an anthology of influential essays written by top scholars that have defined the field of American girls’ history and culture over the last thirty years.

Revolutionary Women: A Book of Stencils

I'm all for learning more—and for disseminating information to a wide audience—about women who have played significant roles in history. All too often, women who have contributed to movements for change have been given all too little (or no) attention or credit. I agree that we need to have a more complete picture of the female revolutionaries who risked and sometimes gave their lives for a cause.

The Girls’ History and Culture Reader: The Nineteenth Century

In 1982 Harvard professor Carol Gilligan published In a Different Voice, a revolutionary body of research articulating the unique psychological experience of being female in America. Responding to research that drew conclusions from studying boys, Gilligan’s exploration of the female experience was one of the first to focus on girlhood as an independent site for research rather than as a sub-category of Women’s Studies.

Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock

One of the best things about reviewing books is the exposure I get to the fabulous females in feminist history who would otherwise be consigned to the cobwebby corners of academic obscurity had some enterprising writer not plucked them from the depths and held them up for the delight of feminist history nerds. This was what I experienced with Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic, which is part biography and part collected works of Ida Craddock.

The Pious Sex: Essays on Women and Religion in the History of Political Thought

I could comment extensively on each of the essays in The Pious Sex, but seeing as there are eleven in total (not counting the introduction) and I have limited space here, that will not be possible. At the beginning of the introduction, the editor, Andrea Radasanu, immediately apologizes for calling to mind “the worst of the prejudices associated with women over the ages: the characterization of women as superstitious and inherently irrational creatures that

Marion Manley: Miami's First Woman Architect

Marion Manley was not merely Miami’s first female architect, she also played a crucial role in the area’s planning. Responsible for much of the design of the University of Miami—dubbed “the first modern university”—Manley was also a pioneer in what we now call “green building” and ecological preservation.

Thiefing Sugar: Eroticism Between Women in Caribbean Literature

Tinsley’s fascinating study of “women loving women” examines their colonial and postcolonial experiences in Dutch, French, and English-speaking areas of the Caribbean. This volume, in the Perverse Modernities series by Duke University Press, takes its title from the writing of Trinidad-born poet-novelist Dionne Brand, whose cane-cutter character Elizete uses the phrase “thiefing sugar” to describe her feelings for another woman, Verlia.

Elizabeth's Women: Friends, Rivals, and Foes who Shaped the Virgin Queen

Tracy Borman’s book, Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen, is an account of the women in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, and her relationship with them. As an avid reader of historical accounts of royals, I found this particular book to be notable for a number of reasons. It was well written, honest, and reflected Borman’s passion for the life of Queen Elizabeth I.

Poverty, Charity, and Motherhood: Maternal Societies in Nineteenth-Century France

The women-run organization The Society for Maternal Charity survived more than a hundred years of wars, revolutions, and government changes. Initially the group began because of the number of children being abandoned due to poverty. Not only were these foundlings expensive for the state, but they also had a very high mortality rate. Women’s societies were viewed as more ideal than orphanages and seen as an extension of the women’s domestic sphere.

Contesting the Archives: Finding Women in the Sources

The collection of essays that encompass Contesting the Archives: Finding Women in the Sources will resonate well with those scholars who have endeavored to conduct research on women in a historical, cultural and/or economic context, for these scholars are well aware of the dearth of complete and detailed historical records on their subjects.

No Silent Witness: The Eliot Parsonage Women and their Unitarian World

Group biography is notoriously difficult, for all the reasons that biography itself is hazardous, compounded by the number of people brought to center stage, and, in this case, the geographical and temporal sweep of the subject matter. To make a single life a coherent narrative with episodes that build systematically and climax, with a psychologically complex yet recognizably unified character, and with a sense of thematic consistency is to fashion something that life is not.

The Red Queen

Philippa Gregory’s most recent work of historical fiction, The Red Queen, describes the bloody War of the Roses from the perspective of Margaret Beaufort, a member of the house of Lancaster and, perhaps most famously, grandmother to Henry VIII. Gregory’s second book in the Cousins’ War series, The Red Queen serves as a foil to The White Queen, which presented the war from the perspective of the York Queen Elizabeth Woodville.

The Words of Extraordinary Women

I have a confession to make. As a little baby nerd-in-training, I would spend hours in the living room reading Bartlett‘s Familiar Quotations along with various other reference works that weren‘t really meant to be read in that way. Despite my complete lack of understanding of anything resembling cool and my utter ignorance of virtually everything pop cultural, I still knew that that wasn‘t something you went around telling people unless you aspired to pariah status.

In the Time of the Girls

When do you stop being a girl? When do you start? And, perhaps most importantly, what does it mean to be a girl? These questions are necessary ingredients in order to fully ingest Anne Germanacos’ debut work, In the Time of the Girls. An exploration of history and individual experience, the book forsakes the traditional plot-driven narrative for a collection of short stories which themselves are a mosaic of prose and dialogue infused vignettes, each individually titled.

Reclaiming the F Word: The New Feminist Movement

What happened to the feminist movement that meant so much to all of us in the 1970s? Is it dead and gone for good? The answer is no, and UK authors Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune are on a mission to spread the word. “Article after article proclaimed that feminism was dead,” they write, “and stated that young people in particular are uninterested in this once vital movement.

Unbounded Practice: Women and Landscape Architecture in the Early Twentieth Century

Female hands are all over America's landscape; you just need to know where to look for them. In Unbounded Practice, author Thaisa Way can direct your eye. Look to the Memorial Quadrangle at Yale, the grounds of Princeton, or a number of botanical gardens and astronomical observatories to see the legacy of Beatrix Jones Farrand (1872-1959).

Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry

In Beauty Shop Politics, Tiffany M. Gill documents the central role that Black beauticians played in the struggle against Jim Crow laws. Beauty shops were one of the few industries that offered Black women some economic stability and upward mobility in the face of segregation. The industry also offered Black women a respectable alternative to domestic labor, as well as a chance to not work for White people.

Universal Women: Filmmaking and Institutional Change in Early Hollywood

In Universal Women, Professor Cooper launches a multidisciplinary investigation into the mystery of why it was that Universal Film Manufacturing Company broadly supported women directors during the 1910s before abruptly reversing the policy.

The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life Cycle of an Eighteenth-Century Woman (Abridged Version)

The preface to this newly issued, abridged version of Elizabeth Drinker's diary, published originally in three volumes in 1991, reveals the sort of personal relationship the editor has formed with her subject over the past decades, an intimacy that forms often in historical scholarship, especially in single-author studies and even more so when the genre of focus is so inherently intimate, as the diary form certainly is.

Eleanor the Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine

I have to say... I feel a little duped. There is nothing in the book's presentation to suggest that Eleanor the Queen is a reprint of a 1950s novel by Norah Lofts. Apparently Lofts was a prolific and best-selling author known for her "authentic use of period detail." I hadn’t heard of her, but I don’t follow the historical novel market, I just read them. I did not, however, finish reading this.

No Permanent Waves: Recasting Histories of U.S. Feminism

As an undergraduate, my major was Women’s Studies, so I’ve read my fair share of feminist texts over the last several years. It’s hard to find one that offers a new perspective or, at least, a perspective different enough to satisfy both the expert and the novice.


Captivity is a historical novel based on the true story of the Fox sisters, who claimed they could communicate with the dead. Able to convince a group of people of their abilities, they garnered a following that would grow to become a religious movement known as American Spiritualism, or simply Spiritualism.

Impatient with Desire

Impatient with Desire is the story of Tamsen Donner, now-legendary westward pioneer. Tamsen was forty-five when she set out on the California-Oregon Trail with her husband and five children in the spring of 1846. Stranded by early snows, Tamsen and the other Donner Party pioneers spent a harrowing four months in the Sierra Nevadas without supplies.

Sapphistries: A Global History of Love Between Women

Sapphistries is an epic journey through real and fictional love between women. It is so epic that the author, Leila J. Rupp, had to coin a new term to describe this type of book. It is not just a history; it is an interweaving of prehistoric musings, fictional accounts that draw on suppositions of what it must have been like in times when no evidence was left of when and where these kinds of love was forbidden, right up to the modern day.

Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, 1832-1919

Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, 1832-1919 is a plethora of facts, evidence, and tightly woven themes that are well-researched by Harris, yet the book isn’t boring or dry. I found it inspirational and enraging at the same time. Women of the past made it easier for women today by tirelessly battling for women’s rights (and for men who were not white property owners). Walker was a dutiful and energetic soldier.

Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism

In Girl Zines, Alison Piepmeier elegantly chronicles the emergence in the early 1990s of zines: a complex, multifaceted phenomenon aligned with third wave feminism, and a powerful and unruly articulation of the same cultural moment that produced riot grrrls. It may also have been the last gasp of the manuscript culture—since, some would say, eclipsed by the blogosphere and electronic media—as a pervasive form of underground radical expression.

When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present

Oh, Gail Collins, you had me at New York Times columnist. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived away from New York for so long now and have to read it online most of the year, but holding printed and bound words from a witty Times writer in a book that I can dip into for a few minutes, or a hour, whenever I like is brainy self-indulgence that I can say yes to. My mother grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and I’ve always had a thing for vintage and retro pop culture. If this is you, too, you’ll quickly find yourself on board as well, Times fetish or no.

Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution In Music

Having been born in the late '80s, I always felt I missed out on everything cool in music. I wasn’t there to see the birth of punk. I wasn’t there for New Wave. I was too young for grunge, and I was too far away from Olympia, WA for riot grrrl. In the 1990s, I bought Sublime’s self -titled album along with Alice Cooper’s School's Out, and that was the extent of my musical awareness.